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Quick – It’s 5 pm and you forgot to take dinner out of the freezer! Learn how to thaw ground beef quickly with this easy method! No microwaving, and ready to cook in about 20 minutes.

Ziploc bag of ground beef on a counter

We’ve all been there – it’s dinnertime but you forgot to take the meat out of the freezer and your kids are begging for tacos. What are you going to do with that frozen ground beef? Never fear – I’m going to show you how to freeze and then quickly thaw ground beef – in under 20 minutes – with no microwaving!

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How to Quickly Thaw Ground Beef

One of the easiest and most cost-effective proteins to cook with is ground beef. It’s budget-friendly, freezes well whether it’s cooked or uncooked, and it cooks quickly.

Some of my favorite meals are made with ground beef, like Sheet Pan Meatloaf and Potatoes, Ground Beef Enchiladas, Ground Beef Tacos and Tamale Pie. But I don’t always plan ahead, as much as I wish I was one of those people.

Read on to learn how to thaw ground beef quickly, no microwave required. And just for fun, I’ll give you some tips for defrosting in the microwave too, which is even faster.

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How to Freeze Ground Beef

I like to buy bulk packages of ground beef at Costco. For our family of five, we need about 1 1/2-2 pounds of ground beef for a meal.

I used to just cut the package into equal parts and wrap and freeze it in a big chunk. But it would take FOREVER to thaw, and forget it if you just decided on the way home that you were making meatloaf. There was just no time to thaw the meat.

So I started freezing my ground meat a little differently, and it’s made things much easier come dinnertime.

  • Remove the meat from it’s original packaging and if needed cut into equal pieces. After cutting equal pieces, I placed each portion in a resealable plastic freezer bag, flattened the meat, squeezed out as much air as possible.
  • Label the individual bag with the weight.
  • Flattening the meat makes for much less thawing time. In fact, just place the bag in a bowl of tap water and it takes less than 30 minutes to thaw!

How to Thaw Ground Beef

Once you’ve got your beef stacked in the freezer, you just have to grab one and stick it in a bowl of water to speed up the thawing.

The most optimal and safest method to thaw ground beef is to place it in the fridge overnight. Sometimes you just don’t have the time, so you need a quicker method. Thawing in a bowl of water or under running water is a great alternative.

  1. Place the sealed bag of frozen ground beef in a large bowl.
  2. Fill the bowl with cold tap water. Do not use hot water or it will start to cook the edges of the meat while the center is still solid.
  3. Leave it in the water for 20-30 minutes, refreshing the water as needed to keep it at room temperature.

How to Defrost Ground Beef in the Microwave

Unwrap the frozen ground beef and place it in a microwave-safe container.

Use the defrost setting on your microwave to thaw the meat. If your microwave doesn’t have a defrost setting, set it to 30% power for 8-10 minutes, turning the meat over halfway through. Microwaves vary, so if yours doesn’t have a turntable, you’ll want to turn it a quarter turn a few times during defrosting.

According to the USDA, It is important that meat thawed in the microwave be cooked immediately; otherwise, harmful bacteria could form, making it unsafe.

Is it safe to refreeze thawed ground beef?

If you thawed your meat in the fridge, you can absolutely refreeze it. It’s only considered safe if the internal temperature of the meat stayed below 40℉. So if you use the kitchen sink method, use it up. Cook the ground beef and then freeze that instead.

Ziploc bag of ground beef on a counter
A bowl of water with plastic wrapped ground beef

Expert Tips

  • Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water any time you handle raw meat, like ground beef.
  • To get even portions, use a kitchen scale.
  • The water in the bowl will get colder as the meat sits in it, and you’ll want to change it often to keep it at room temperature. To thaw even quicker, use running water.
  • This works just as well with ground turkey, pork or chicken.
  • Regardless of your choice of these two methods, don’t thaw your frozen meat by setting it on the counter. This is the quickest way to encourage bacteria growth.

Ground Beef Recipes

I have lots of ground beef recipes here on the website, but these are some of the most popular:

A bowl of water with plastic wrapped ground beef

How to Quickly Thaw Ground Beef

5 from 2 votes
Quickly thaw ground beef with this easy method! No microwaving required, and your meat is ready to cook in about 20 minutes.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 Gallon-size resealable plastic bag


  • 1 pound Lean ground beef


  • Place 1 pound of ground beef in a plastic freezer bag. Seal, leaving about an inch for air to escape, then press meat flat, about an inch thick. Seal completely.
  • Label then freeze until ready to use, up to 6 months or optimmum freshness.
  • Remove from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, or to thaw quickly, place in a bowl of room temperature (tap) water for 20-30 minutes.


Make sure to label the bag with the date. Ground beef can be frozen for up to 6 months for best results.


Calories: 155kcalProtein: 24gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 75mgPotassium: 392mgCalcium: 10mgIron: 3mg

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. Thank you a thousand times for your tip – this has helped me out tremendously – cheers from Canada

  2. I know this post is years old but I found it when I was looking for ways to quickly thaw ground beef. My darling boyfriend threw the entire 2 pound chunk of ground beef in the freezer so I guess we aren’t having that tonight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. You can do this with any meat. That’s what I have done for years, with chicken, pork chops, etc. As long as it’s COLD water, there’s no chance of bacteria growth from not thawing it in the refrigerator.